Home US My 21-year-old son died in an unfathomably random accident – and that was the end of my old life. However, he’s still with me every day… writes KATHRYN FLETT

My 21-year-old son died in an unfathomably random accident – and that was the end of my old life. However, he’s still with me every day… writes KATHRYN FLETT

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Jackson at his Cardiff University graduation last summer.

On Tuesday, September 19, 2023, I wrote an article on Substack about that week’s big story, Russell Brand, and (according to my text messages), I texted my oldest son, Jackson, at 5:38 p.m.: I posted my Substack.

I knew I had been writing most of the afternoon and the message quickly returned with a heart emoji attached. Really, we are both lazy, as he was just on the other side of the wall separating my home office from the living room where he was sitting, typically multitasking: watching the large TV on the wall, with his computer laptop on knees. and phone in hand. A few minutes later, as I was tidying up my digital desktop, I heard a muffled ‘Mom!’, so I got up and walked inside.


‘I think it’s probably a very good piece, but what exactly are you saying about Brand? I mean, I’ve skimmed it! I should probably read it properly, right?

‘It’s up to you, always interested in hearing your thoughts but maybe reading one thing at a time!’

‘Yes, yes, I will read it again. Look, I’ll go out in a little while to meet the boys. But first I’m going to make a hamburger.

—If you want, there’s a fat beer in the refrigerator in the garage. I’m going to work a little more. Don’t forget that I’m going to Cornwall tomorrow and I’ll be leaving early.

‘Ah, so you want me to come back from the apartment first and say goodbye?’

Jackson at his Cardiff University graduation last summer.

I had given Jackson the keys to a nearby empty rental I had between tenants, arguing that I didn’t want my famously heavy-footed son and a couple of his roommates waking me up when they came back late. ‘Do not be silly. You probably won’t be awake when we leave, much less here.

The river. “You better say goodbye now.”

We hug.

“Have fun,” I said, even though it was only a Tuesday night: local pub, game of pool. It is not a big thing.

‘I will do that!’ Jackson said.

“I love you,” I said.

“I love you too,” Jackson said.

He went downstairs, made a burger, drank a plump beer and chatted with my partner, Julian. Maybe 20 minutes passed when, from the window of my first-floor office, I saw Jackson leave the house. He put on his Airpods as he made his way down our short gravel drive and then turned left out of the gate, onto the main road, down the hill to the flat.

He didn’t turn to greet his mother. Why would she do it? This wasn’t a movie. He was just a 21-year-old man at the end of what he had described as “the perfect summer,” hanging out for a few hours with two of his best friends before waking up Wednesday morning and moving on with the rest of his life. He had many plans.

Except there was no Wednesday morning for Jackson. Because at approximately 12.50am, after an unfathomably random accidental fall into an empty hospitality space on the Hastings seafront (the Courtyard, where all the bars and cafes were closed), my eldest son died instantly.

Jackson with his mother, Kathryn, on his 18th birthday in 2020.

Jackson with his mother, Kathryn, on his 18th birthday in 2020.

According to the toxicology report, he was not excessively drunk (he had drunk about three pints) or under the influence of drugs. He had rained and stood on tiptoe, leaning too far forward over a lethally low retaining wall and… kept going.

That he was about to fall headlong onto the cement, much less die as a result, would barely have registered. It was a freak accident made even stranger by the fact that Jackson had a first-dan black belt in karate and had the balance of a mountain goat. However, the provisional death certificate stated that the “precise cause of death was 1a) Comminuted depressed skull fractures with brain lacerations.” 1b) Massive head trauma. 1c) Fall from height (witnessed)’.

In addition to being witnessed by his friends, everything was captured on CCTV.

So those are the facts, for the record.

And besides it being the end of Jackson’s life, it was also the end of my old life. All from 1:45 a.m. on Wednesday, September 20, 2023, when the lone police officer showed up at my door to give me the news that my lively 21-year-old son, a recent physics graduate who had just gotten a well-paid modeling job. and that he had all the rest of a brilliant life ahead of him, he was dead – he belongs to a completely different life, now consigned to the past.

It is an insect captured in amber. He never saw 2024.

However, my new life, which is barely six months old, is a place where I still have two children, only one of whom is physically alive. The other is alive inside me (where, according to a 2012 academic study, some of my children’s cells almost certainly remain).

As I tentatively navigate this liminal space, Jackson is with me all day, every day. He may not send me emojis, but I feel like his energy (always very powerful in life) drives me and helps me through a tragedy that all parents fear. His energy helps me cope with how this cruel and brutal loss will continue to impact the rest of my life. Which, even in these early days, I can confirm happens in every conceivable way, and many inconceivable ones, too.

I’m only halfway through my own Year of Magical Thinking and Jackson is already an insect captured in amber; He never saw 2024, nor the war between Israel and Palestine. When he died, the AI ​​images still couldn’t render convincing fingers, the Spurs were on a winning streak and oppenheimer – the last film we saw together – had not yet won Oscars or Baftas.

Meanwhile, as Studio Ghibli fans, we were both still awaiting the release of Hayao Miyazaki’s now Bafta and Oscar winner. The boy and the heron. He had bought tickets but Jackson didn’t know it.

March 20, 2024 (exactly six months since his death) was a day without him physically, but he is everywhere around me. No time has passed since he died…yet, it is all the time. I struggle to cope with my loss by leaning into the tsunami of grief as it comes suddenly. Allowing myself to truly feel these emotions is the painful place where I connect – reconnect – with my child. Because that is the space in which our love still lives; We were very close in life and we still are.

JackoFest will be held in July to celebrate Jackson's life

JackoFest will be held in July to celebrate Jackson’s life

One of the many ways I am trying to cope with my loss has been to create a music festival (raising money for charities that support grieving parents and siblings) in Jackson’s memory. As a family, everything revolves around music: my father was a lyricist whose lyrics have been sung by Elvis Presley, Ray Charles, Joe Cocker, Frankie Valli and many more, while Jackson was never happier than when standing in a field. with his colleagues watching live music.

JackoFest will take place on July 27 at the De La Warr Pavilion in Bexhill-on-Sea, the day before what would have been his 22nd birthday. The idea arose like a phoenix from the ashes of a party we had already planned for 2024, celebrating my 60th birthday and my youngest son’s 18th birthday. When Jackson turned 22, we made 100 and had planned a multi-generational ‘centenary’ party at a local pub where Jackson worked occasionally during university holidays.

Instead, the Marina Fountain in St Leonards-on-Sea ended up holding my son’s record-breaking wake (the biggest ever bar admission in a pub), on October 14 last year.

We still have more artists to announce; however, tickets are now on sale for my motherly love festival. It’s for Jackson’s brother, Rider, and all his friends, and my friends, and all the boys’ family, and anyone who wants to join us, in honor of the extraordinary young man whom I had the privilege of growing up, and then one more time. be born, know.

For me, it’s Jackson’s love that lives on.

And it is that love that will continue to define the shape of the rest of the lives of your family and friends. He was tremendously loyal to us, as we are to him. We miss him and love him, and he knows it.

He’s Stardust, he’s Golden.

For more information and tickets to JackoFest visit dlwp.com/event/jackofest. Kathryn’s fees for this article will be used to donate tickets to deserving recipients, including similarly grieving families.

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